Facebook just released Paper 1.1, an update that adds features and notifications to make it a more comprehensive substitute for Facebook for iOS. It also gave the first momentum update on Paper since its Febraury 3rd launch, saying “people have explored an average of 80 stories a day“. It didn’t release a user count, though, andsome critics are calling it a flop due to low App Store chart rankings and anecdotal evidence.
It’s still a bit early to make a call on whether Paper is a failure though, as it’s still rounding out the core product and Facebook hasn’t pushed growth yet. Paper slowly declined in the App Store charts after its launch in early February. According to App Annie, It slid down past #50 in the US social networking app charts in March to hover around #100 in April, but has picked up to around #60 for the last week. On the overall app chart, it fell from #2 on launch day to well below #1000 earlier this month.
Surely by promoting it to Facebook for iOS users, the company could boost user counts, but it seems interested in polishing the standalone app first. However, its first foray into virality with a March update that added private sharing of articles by SMS, email, and Facebook Message didn’t stop its App Store decline.
What really matters is retention, though. And that’s what Facebook is aiming to improve today. Rather than just a feed reading app, Paper can be used as a replacement Facebook client. Today’s feature updates make it even better at that.
Facebook added Birthdays and Events alerts to the notifications list in Paper so you don’t miss them just because you’re sidestepping the core app. Groups now display unread post counts so you can keep up to date, but they’re awkwardly only accessible by dragging down to reveal the navigation menu and then opening the hamburger button in the top corner.
Facebook had an artist draw custom article covers for 9 more publications, including Bloomberg News, Mashable, FT, kottke, Fox News, Popular Science, The Hollywood Reporter, Vanity Fair and Hacker News. And there’s now an arrow to easily jump to new stories published since you opened Paper.
For Paper, success isn’t a ton of users that open it once and awhile. It’s everday usage by forward-thinking people bored of the classic Facebook app that needs to stay simple so it’s easy for the whole world to use. If these new notifications and features can keep users from slipping back to Facebook for iOS, their loyalty could inspire word of mouth growth for the app. The question will be if a polished version of Paper offers enough added value and delight to get users over the hump of learning an entirely new interface.